Installing a church administrator as the chair of a health system board might seem an unusual choice — unless the health system in question was founded at the direction of a church’s co-founder and, more than a century later, keeps Christian faith at the core of its mission.
That is precisely the situation at Loma Linda University Health, which this week named Pastor Thomas L. Lemon, a general vice president of the Seventh-day Adventist world church, chairman of the institution’s Board of Trustees. Lemon has been on the LLU board since 2010, when he was elected president of the church’s Mid-America region.
Dr. Richard Hart, MD, MPH, president of Loma Linda University Health said, “[Pastor] Lemon served on boards of directors for a number of higher education and health care institutions, as well as media and outreach ministries. His leadership experience and dedication to mission is coming at a critical time in Loma Linda’s history when we are expanding our outreach to our local community, our region, and the world.”
Via email, Lemon told Adventist Review he was aware of the challenges the institution faces: “While the state of healthcare delivery is always complicated, in the U.S. currently there is considerable uncertainty given the recent election. Now more than ever the Loma Linda University Health ministry and commitment to whole person care is vital for the local delivery footprint. But more than that — the steady, calm and often inspiring ministry that LLUH provides for the global health care community must and will continue as the anxiety and complicating details continue to be ratcheted up.”
Lemon, who became a general vice president in 2015 during the church’s General Conference Session in San Antonio, Texas, succeeds Lowell C. Cooper, MDiv, MPH, whose 15 years as LLU board chair make him the longest-serving chairman in Loma Linda’s history. Hart said Cooper’s “leadership has been invaluable to us, and we have flourished under his guidance. We are truly indebted to him for his service to the church and to this institution.”
During Cooper’s service as board chairman, the Loma Linda University School of Pharmacy was established, as were the Schools of Religion and Behavioral Health. Loma Linda University Health also celebrated its 100th Anniversary. Under his leadership, Loma Linda saw the openings of its Surgical hospital, Murrieta hospital, Highland Springs Medical Plaza, the Tom & Vi Zapara Rehabilitation Pavilion, the Behavioral Health Institute, the Centennial Complex, and the San Bernardino Campus.
In an email, Cooper said he was grateful for his time with the institution. LLU Board service, he said, “has given me the opportunity to associate closely with outstanding leaders in health education, healthcare, and healthcare administration. I have been privileged to see firsthand how professionals, deeply committed to God and the Church, translate the concepts of institutional mission into practical action.”
The notion of having a church leader at the head of a medical institution’s trustee board might not seem that foreign to Ellen G. White
Lemon received his BA degree from Southwestern Adventist University and a master of divinity from the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University. Lemon’s wife, Jan, is a career educator. The Lemons have two adult children and four grandchildren.
The notion of having a church leader at the head of a medical institution’s trustee board might not seem that foreign to Ellen G. White, the Seventh-day Adventist Church co-founder who directed the establishment of what is today’s LLU. She was quite emphatic that the school should embody Adventist values.
In February 1910, White wrote to regional church leaders, “We must provide that which is essential to qualify our youth who desire to be physicians, so that they may intelligently fit themselves to be able to stand the examinations required to prove their efficiency as physicians.… The medical school at Loma Linda is to be of the highest order, because those who are in that school have the privilege of maintaining a living connection with the wisest of all physicians [Christ], from whom there is communicated knowledge of a superior order. And for the special preparation of those of our youth who have clear convictions of their duty to obtain a medical education that will enable them to pass the examinations required by law of all who practice as regularly qualified physicians, we are to supply whatever may be required, so that these youth need not be compelled to go to medical schools conducted by men not of our faith.”
— with information from Loma Linda University Health